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Melech Zilbershlag is getting people to rethink everything they “know” about Israel’s Haredi-Orthodox community

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Melech Zilbershlag is an unorthodox face on Israeli Social media from a Haredi-Orthodox world | Photo: Shai Yechezkel

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With more than a hundred thousand social media followers and dozens of videos on Israel’s public broadcaster, Ka’an Digital, it’s no wonder Melech Zilbershlag is considered king of Israel’s religious social media world. Through various channels, Melech is helping to bridge the gap between Israel’s Haredi-Orthodox and secular cultures. Melech to discusses how he uses his platforms to foster greater understanding and strengthen Jewish unity.

When did you decide you wanted to work in the media?

I didn’t plan to enter this field. I was raised in a house where my father was involved in politics and through that I was exposed to politicians – prime ministers, the president – and people along those lines. In [my] home we were exposed to well-known cultural icons and non-religious people. This world wasn’t strange to me, as it might be to other Orthodox people. When I began exploring social media, I fell in love with it. I realized that it was a wonderful platform to reach people whom I wouldn’t otherwise. 

How did you become involved with Ka’an Digital?

I was on various social media platforms, getting attention and speaking about issues that were important to me. At around that time, Ka’an Digital was entering the digital world and they offered me a position.

In Canada, secular and Orthodox Jews interact daily, while in Israel things are very different. Could you elaborate upon the cultural divide?

I think there’s a major lack of knowledge of the Orthodox in Israel when it comes to secular Israelis. People don’t really know anything about them, so it seems like something very distant and strange. This was really felt during the recent coronavirus crisis; many secular Israelis blamed the Orthodox for the outbreak. This made an already tense relationship even harder, especially since [that assertion] did not reflect reality. I am here to make sure that people understand what the Orthodox world is really all about.

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You mentioned that the pandemic shone a brighter light on the gap between Israel’s secular and Haredi-Orthodox communities. How so?

[When the pandemic hit] suddenly everyone forgot all about the Orthodox people who help the state – who painstakingly help following terrorist attacks; who volunteer at organizations that save people’s lives and help in various [roles] in Israeli society. Maybe they don’t do it in the “acceptable” Israeli way [by serving in] the army, but they help in so many other ways. We became the scapegoat [for the pandemic] and we were mistreated. So I used my platforms to make sure that people were aware of [the community’s contributions].

How have you been received in your community? 

It was very hard for many people [to accept what I do] in the beginning. Usually Orthodox Israelis on TV or in entertainment are people who used to be secular. There has never been a television personality who grew up and is still Orthodox and [stars] on television, for a number of reasons: As an Orthodox person you are expected to get married young and immerse yourself in daily community life. No one is really encouraged to go into the arts. So, when I started there was a really big question mark surrounding whether or not I would succeed. But today’s generation is different. Social media has entered the Orthodox world and it is changing everything. The distance between [us] and the secular world is becoming much smaller and I am one of the reasons this is happening.

Melech Zilbershlag in the Ka’an Digital video: “Do all the Haredim look the same?”

Why did you decide to join the army later in life?

I realized that if I walk around as a well-known Haredi-Orthodox celebrity who hasn’t served in the military, it wouldn’t be appropriate… So I joined and ended up as part of the IDF Spokespersons Unit. It was a place I knew I could contribute a lot. The day I decided I would join was a day that broke another glass ceiling for the Haredi-Orthodox community.

You’ve left Ka’an Digital. Where are you going next?

I love being on social media. I think it has actually helped a lot of Israeli communities understand one another, or at least learn about each other. I don’t think that’s something existing today on traditional [platforms] such as television or radio. This is where I’m hoping to end up next; the day people will turn on the television and be used to seeing a young Orthodox person, something inside of them will change.

They won’t automatically just blame the Orthodox community for things such as COVID-19, for example. I use that example again because this is something that had a major impact on us this past year. I am certain that many people who have watched me in my various videos and stories are used to my Orthodox look; they see me as Melech Zilbershlag and not just that “Orthodox guy.” 

Igal Hecht is a documentary filmmaker and journalist who works all over the world. 

For more info visit www.chutzpaproductions.com

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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